News | April 28, 2024

Nine Georgian Nationals arrested for Rare Book Thefts


Officers on the scene secured over 150 books in order to establish their provenance

During an action day supported by Europol in Georgia and Latvia, four Georgians suspected of stealing antique and rare books from libraries across Europe have been taken into custody. In total, the criminal group is believed to be responsible for the theft of at least 170 books, causing financial damages amounting to around EUR 2,500,000 and an immeasurable patrimonial loss to society. 

Some of these stolen historical artefacts were sold via auction houses in St. Petersburg and Moscow, effectively making them irrecoverable. Leading up to the action day, three suspects had been arrested in Estonia, France and Lithuania, with another two suspects under judicial supervision in France.

Over 100 law enforcement officials were deployed on the action day in Georgia and Latvia, searching 27 locations in total. In addition to arresting four suspects, officers on the scene secured over 150 books in order to establish their provenance.

In 2022 and 2023, the criminal group managed to steal rare books from national and historical libraries in Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Switzerland. The thieves would target rare books by mainly Russian writers, such as first editions authored by the likes of Alexander Pushkin or Nikolai Gogol.

When visiting libraries, the thieves would request to check the antique books in person, feigning a specific such as academic interest. They would meticulously measure the books and take photographs before handing them back. Several days, weeks, or months later, the perpetrators would return and ask to access the same books, this time returning counterfeit versions. Experts have established that the copies were of outstanding quality.

In other cases, the perpetrators relied on a more crude approach and simply broke into libraries. In preparation of the thefts, they would typically visit libraries and research the books they later stole.